Characterization of supramolecular polymers

Chem Soc Rev. 2012 Sep 21;41(18):5922-32. doi: 10.1039/c2cs35084j. Epub 2012 Jun 6.


Supramolecular polymers are made of monomers that are held together by noncovalent interactions. This is the reason for the wide range of novel properties, such as reversibility and responses to stimuli, exhibited by supramolecular polymers. A range of supramolecular polymerization methods have been developed leading to a number of novel supramolecular materials. However, standard techniques for the characterization of supramolecular polymers have yet to be established. The dynamic nature of supramolecular polymers makes them difficult to be fully characterized using conventional polymer techniques. This tutorial review summarizes various methods for characterizing supramolecular polymers, including theoretical estimation, size exclusion chromatography, viscometry, light scattering, vapor pressure osmometry, mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, scanning probe microscopy, electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy-based single molecule force spectroscopy. Each of these methods has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. Most of the methods are used to characterize the supramolecular polymer chain itself. However, some of the methods can be used to study the self-assembled state formed by supramolecular polymers. The characterization of a supramolecular polymer cannot be realized with a single method; a convincing conclusion relies on the combination of several different techniques.